World Cup Day 8: A Look Ahead

JamesRodriguezColombia1-Greece2014WorldCup (Getty)

By TIM FONTENAULT

Teams dropped out of the World Cup like flies on Wednesday, including the reigning champions. On Thursday, more teams will be fighting for their lives while others hope to clinch a spot in the knockout stage.

Playing in its first World Cup since 1998, Colombia came flying out of the gates last week against Greece. Led by a blazingly quick attack and an incredible performance on the back line by 38-year-old captain Mario Yepes, Los Cafeteros cruised to a 3-0 victory. Both Colombia and the Ivory Coast, which overcame Japan’s early lead to grab all three points, will be looking to get first dibs on a spot in the knockout rounds from Group C.

Colombia has only reached the Round of 16 once before, in 1990. The “golden generation” squad of 1994 was a disaster and 1998 proved to be more of the same. This time around, Colombia has put itself in prime position to get back to the knockout stage. They have a chance to secure that berth with a victory over the Ivory Coast.

The Ivory Coast was on its heels for most of the match against Japan. When Didier Drogba came in, the African side found new life. Everyone seemed to kick it up a gear, especially Serge Aurier, who swung in his two best crosses of the game almost immediately after Drogba’s inclusion. Both of those crosses found the back of the net through Wilfried Bony and Gervinho. This is a big moment for Les Éléphants. Playing in only its third World Cup, its third straight, the Ivory Coast could reach the Round of 16 for the first time by beating Colombia.

The high-stakes showdown kicks off ESPN’s coverage Thursday at 12 p.m. ET.

Here are some more notes ahead of today’s World Cup action:

URUGUAY vs. ENGLAND

In Group D’s only match of the day, two sides that got outclassed in their openers will try to rectify their misfortunes.

England and Uruguay are both looking to stave off elimination. Led by Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, England gave Italy a run for its money, but Andrea Pirlo and the Azzurri were too much for them. Now heading into a match with a Uruguay team missing captain Diego Lugano, England could be on the verge of breaching an opposition’s defense on more than one occasion.

Sturridge and Sterling provided the speed while Rooney’s precision passing from the left helped against Italy, but Rooney could move into a No. 10 role against Uruguay and operate more from the middle with either Danny Welbeck or Adam Lallana operating from the wing.

On the other side, Uruguay does see the return of forward Luis Suarez, which should be not only a big boost in talent but also psychologically coming off a devastating, unexpected loss. Suarez’s impact will also affect England’s defense, which surely has plenty of experience defending the 27-year-old in the Premier League. Suarez’s addition could mean that Diego Forlan will either move to the bench or to one of the wide positions in Uruguay’s 4-3-3 formation.

This important match for two former world champions gets going at 3 p.m. on ESPN.

JAPAN vs. GREECE

As is the case in the second match, the loser – if there is one – of the final match of the day will be eliminated from contention in Group C. Keisuke Honda showed the form that seemed to be lost after his January move to AC Milan, scoring a wonderful goal against the Ivory Coast, but the Asian giants could not hang on. It is do or die for Japan and Greece, unless the Ivory Coast and and Colombia draw, but a win will put the victor in a good spot entering the last game.

While Japan was always in their match, the only time Greece looked likely to score was when Theofanis Gekas put a header off the post with a wide-open goal to play with. Other than that, they were outworked and outplayed by Colombia. The attacking force of Colombia was too much for Greece’s broken defense to handle. They never looked capable of putting it down.

Honda is a playmaker, one of the best around when he is at the top of his game. The AC Milan forward likes to drift in between the defensive and midfield lines, popping up in spaces where he can receive the ball and turn towards goal.

If he can give a performance like the one he gave for most of the opening match, he could be set to put in a noteworthy showing.

Japan and Greece will end ESPN’s coverage with a 6 p.m. kickoff.

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What do you think of today’s slate of matches? Will the Ivory Coast or Colombia clinch a spot in the Round of 16? Will one of the four teams fighting elimination get knocked out? Will two?

Share your thoughts below.

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10 Responses to World Cup Day 8: A Look Ahead

  1. William the Terror says:

    Colombia 1-1 Ivory Coast.

    England 1-1Uruguay

    Japan 1-0 Greece

  2. Brian I says:

    I love this Colombian team, they are my #2 team to root for in this World Cup. So much young talent in the side (even with Falcao missing) and with the old man Yepes leading the charge in his first world cup at 40yrs old…Also watching “The Two Escobars” got me on their side even more.

  3. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    Colombia and Chile have the talent to go far this WC! I hope England Crashes out!

  4. Sharkbait says:

    Pretty sure the loser of the last two matches are only eliminated if the team they play last wins or draws their 2nd game. For example if Uruguay loses to England and Italy (their next opponent) beats Costa Rica they’ll be eliminated and the same for England if they lose and Costa Rica wins (or if Italy/Costa Rica ends in a draw.)

    Say England loses to Uruguay and Costa Rica loses to Italy. You then have Italy with 6, Uruguay with 3, Costa Rica 3, and England 0. But then the last round Italy (9) beats Uruguay (3) and England (3) beats Costa Rica (3). Then it all comes down to goal differential.

    So in the case of Japan/Greece since their other group match happens first they’ll both know what they have to do in order to avoid elimination where Uruguay and England won’t have that luxury.

  5. Snow says:

    Columbia wins 2-1
    England and Uruguay tie 2-2
    Japan wins 1-0

    I think Columbia out classes Ivory Coast, who looked pretty average for 2/3 of the Japan game.

    The England Uruguay game could be a fun one to watch – I see quite a few goals in that one.

    Greece looked horrible against Colombia. That said, they do have a huge physical advantage over the Japanese team, so I could see them scoring on a set piece, but I think Japan’s organization wins out.

  6. Cheddar says:

    This is way way way too early to even bring this up…….still…….check this out.

    Say these extremely plausible results were to take place.

    USA: 1 Portugal: 1
    USA: 0 Germany: 3
    Portugal: 2 Ghana: 0

    So the final standings for 2nd place in our group would be as follows:

    USA: 4 points, -2 Goal Differential, 3 Goals scored
    Portugal: 4 points, -2 Goal Differential, 3 Goals Scored

    Per Wikipedia, the tiebreaking scenarios are as follows

    The ranking of teams in each group is based on:
    1. Points in all group matches, with 3 points awarded for a win, one point for a draw and none for a loss.
    2. Goal difference in all group matches
    3. Goals scored in all group matches
    4. Points in matches between tied teams
    5. Goal difference in matches between tied teams
    6. Goals scored in matches between tied teams
    7. Drawing of lots

    Unless I am misreading something, if the above results were to happen, the US and Portugal would be tied on tiebreakers 1 through 6……..thus, bringing our 2 years of qualifying, 3 brutal group games, all down to a drawing of lots?

    Am I misinterpreting something?

    • Nate Dollars says:

      that’s way too much work to figure out, but here’s why i think we *must* get all 3 points against portugal:

      1) ghana will lose to germany, and will have nothing to play for against portugal in the last game. if portugal and usa are tied on points, portugal will be scoring at will; i wouldn’t be surprised by a 5-0 scoreline.

      2) i wouldn’t count on a boring draw in our game against germany. germany will want to keep their momentum going; the second-stringers they use will have something to prove. for our part, klinsmann has shown that he’ll play to win, no matter what (goddamn panama game). i can see germany scoring a couple against us and then sitting back.

      therefore, we would have to bet that germany doesn’t score too much on us, and that portugal doesn’t score too much on ghana. i wouldn’t want to count on that.

    • twosevenstreet says:

      Lets just beat portugal and not have to think about these scenarios

  7. KingGoogleyEye says:

    Colombia 3-1 Ivory Coast.
    Ivory Coast holds no advantages over Colombia in this matchup. They were lucky to escape Japan with 3 points, whereas Colombia broke down an organized Greece defense in the first, second, and third acts of the match.

    England 3-2 Uruguay
    A sloppy, testy match, but one where England overcomes its lack of cohesion simply because Uruguay can’t regain theirs. After suffering in Manaus’ heat and humidity, playing in Sao Paulo’s cooler temps helps England endure to the final whistle.

    Japan 2-0 Greece
    Greece gets its first taste of the weather in Brazil’s Nordeste and wilts; Japan comes off a disappointing loss with its same discipline and energy, but with a fraction of a second longer to settle—and finish—their shots.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Why oh why did I ever bet against English incompetence? their ability to look so good on paper and so bad on the field?